by Alexiares and Rachel Hahn
DISCLAIMER: RenPics owns theirs, we own ours. This story is only written
for fun, we didn't make a penny. There's not too much violence... not too much swearing...
not too much sex... but they turn up, this being a X:WP alt fiction piece and all. If you
have any problem with two women being together, this story is really not your thing.
Feedback can be sent to Barderella@aol.com
NOTES: Yet another change in plans, folks. Part five will be the final chapter of Liaisons for me. Rachel will continue the story for Ephiny, Callisto, Solari, and Eponin as soon as she is able. I'll post the next story for me soon. - Alexiares, 00-06-22
"Ah, whoa... tubular as this is, babes, I'm the one who has a problem." Aphrodite interrupted.
"Perfume." Cyrene and Artemis said in unision.
Aphrodite rolled her eyes. "Like NOT. This is a special batch that I've been wearing , and people are always swooning around me. Why, Prince Charming did it just yesterday."
"Can I? Please?" Artemis pleaded with her lover.
"Actually, I'd really like to have a go at this one." Innkeeper and Goddess gazed at each other for a long moment. Cyrene grinned. "Pity pass?"
Artemis laughed, as she remembered where that had first come from. "Sure, pity pass." The genesis of the pity pass, as Artemis liked to put it, had come from her third, and she had believed then, final visit to Amphipolis, and its alluring innkeeper.
Just, something to get, whatever it was out of her system. Whatever it was that drew her feet and her gaze to Amphipolis repeatedly, even when she should have been thinking about something else. Whatever it was that led her to beat Ares senseless when he suggested that maybe he would go bed the woman, just to spite her. Whatever it was that led her to sitting on a rocky point on her island of Aretias, aching to have a woman she knew damned well was already married. Whatever it was.
And now she was standing in front of the bulk of the inn, in very different clothing from anything she had worn here before. No one knew her, and it was no wonder. No particoloured juggler's gear now. Instead, black leathers and solid armour that gleamed a metallic night sky blue. A long cloak curled about her ankles, and whispered in the wind. Artemis' pale eyes gleamed almost completely silver in the moonlight, and she looked like nothing so much as a hungry wolf. Which she knew, and that wouldn't do, would it?
So she stabled her mare, and pulled out her pack, and exchanged armour, cloak, and leathers for wool trousers and tunic, although she kept her boots. Under the tunic was a white linen shirt, only its collar and cuffs visible, marking a sharp contrast to the black wool and its blue trim. Three earrings in one ear, and the careful removal of every weapon she usually wore, and Artemis felt all but naked. A few moments thought, and then she sighed. Wearing armour to ward off painful truths was irrational, but it did seem to work.
A quiet walk to the front of the inn, and now eyes were lighting on her, not only with surprise or admiration, but recognition.
"She's back again!"
"What's Admetus here for this time, I wonder?"
"Why don't she stay, that's what I'm wonderin'. Atrius'll never come back."
Once inside the inn door, Artemis took a deep breath. "By my teeth... I've gotta snap out of this, you'd think I was going to the gallows... and it's not even the right time of year." she muttered. Boosting a hip onto a bar stool, she ran long fingers over the polished wood, brushing away water marks and nicks. An exquisitely minor miracle, homely almost. She laughed softly. Now that was better.
"Tell me, what's a gorgeous woman like you doing in a rotten place like this?" Cyrene grinned at the Goddess, and poured her a mug of ale.
"Being rotten, mostly." Artemis replied, grinning recklessly.
"Oh, I can't believe that... gorgeous women are never rotten. Foolhardy on occasion, maybe." Cyrene leaned closer. She had made up her mind. Admetus was going to tell her who and what she actually was, and why she was here again. After that, Cyrene had a few things of her own to deal with. All risky. Admetus wasn't the only foolhardy one tonight.
"Foolhardy. Well, I don't think I have ever been that before. I'm not entirely sure I like it."
"Nobody likes it. Sometimes you have to be foolhardy anyway. It's like gambling."
"Yes, aren't you?"
A long silence. "I always gamble, and I always win."
"But this time you think you'll lose." Cyrene refilled her mug.
"What! No... why would you suggest such a thing?"
"Because Admetus, if we beat around the bush much longer, there will be no leaves left on it." Cyrene chuckled wryly. "Come into the kitchen, I think we need privacy."
Artemis rose slowly to her feet, and followed the innkeeper. "I do not beat around the bush." she muttered sulkily, picking the ludicrous to go on about rather than the obvious. Cyrene laughed softly, and bumped her with one hip.
"Quit, I think this is supposed to be serious, even though other times I prefer your comedy."
"Oh, all right... if you want." Artemis hesitated. Where to start, when as far as she could see there were a thousand possible beginnings... and one rear end, which was incredibly distracting. She took a long breath, watching Cyrene as she closed the doors and made sure there would be no unwanted interruptions.
"I'll start... Admetus, why are you here?"
"Ummm..." Damn, that was the key question, and she couldn't explain that one. Artemis cleared her throat. "I... came... to... well, I mean..." 'I knew it, I knew it, I knew I should have written a speech!' she chided herself mentally. 'At least then I could beg off for medical reasons... terrible papercut, Cyrene, I think it needs a healer...'
Cyrene raised an eyebrow. Okay. Time for the big crossbows. "Right, you're wasting my time. Get out of my kitchen!" Artemis' eyes got round. That had come from somewhere in right field. She struggled to say something, anything, which of course just made matters worse. "Some days, the things I have to put up with from people..." Cyrene stomped up to the Goddess, and seeing that she had finally trumped both Admetus' reserve and her guard, slipped both arms around her waist and kissed her.
Quite awhile later, Cyrene let her go, and stepped back. "Well, that answered my question." Artemis opened and shut her mouth a couple of times in disbelief. It felt like Cyrene had given her an electric shock with her lips.
'Now how am I supposed to talk! You've stunned my mouth senseless! What if I start drooling!' She took a stunned step back, and bumped into the counter. She leaned back, trying to catch her breath and her equilibrium, which was running around in little circles, yelling happily. "Your question?" Admetus croaked.
"Mmmhmmm... at some ridiculous point in our very short acquaintance, at the very least I've fallen quite seriously in lust with you."
"Oh." What did you say to that? Me too? It might be true, but would you say it?
"That being the case, could you at least tell me who you really are?"
Oh, horse shit. Sometimes perceptive mortals were a real pain in the butt, and the heart. Artemis thought to herself, and jerked in surprise. "Okay..." she said finally, sitting on the counter. "I didn't expect this to happen, at all... usually... I mean... this... usually, I avoid this."
"Then it's like a guided arrow, I'm afraid." Cyrene smiled ruefully.
"Heh... yeah, I guess it is, huh?" Artemis took a breath. "I'm a Goddess." Cyrene nodded. That didn't surprise her too much. She had watched the phenomena of disappearing water rings and hunks and scratches from her tables and bar. "Artemis, mortals usually call me." The innkeeper sat down slowly in a chair, head spinning a bit in spite of herself.
"I kept telling myself, I shouldn't... I shouldn't come back, but I did anyway... it's the full Moon, sometimes it gets to me... look, I can just..."
"No," Cyrene interrupted. "No, you can't. It's not just you, now. We've got to think, both of us."
"I know." Artemis sighed. "I just don't like what I think. It all leads to the same spot, and there's no honest way among people like yours now, to do that."
Cyrene laughed sadly. Poor Artie was beating around the bush again, and this one represented her absentee husband, who was off drinking and whoring somewhere, never giving a thought to the woman he married, or the son he had. And she couldn't see a way out of that, yet. But there was one thing she could see.
"Why should he have all the fun?"
Artemis blinked at her in confusion. "You heard me, why should he have all the fun?" Oh... oh, that was a different story.
"Look, I'll just... go. I shouldn't have come around. My head must be back at Aretias. Yeah... ummm.... see yah." Artemis turned, her hands automatically grabbing something she almost knocked over, then mechanically tucking it under her arm. "Here I go." she smiled weakly, and headed for the door.
"Where are you going with that pot of stew?"
"Stew? What?" Artemis looked at the crook of her arm, and stared in confusion at the pot she had wound up with. "Ummm..."
'Ooooooh, Gaia and Rhea and Cybele help me!' Artemis groaned inwardly, as entirely the wrong sort of hunger came to mind.
"Artie, are you asking me for a pity pass?" Cyrene grinned broadly. Artemis laughed.
"Yeah, I guess I am."
"Put that pot down, and I'll help you with those hunger pangs."
"We can have one night. It isn't going to hurt anyone." Logically speaking, Artemis knew she should say no. This wasn't the sort of thing she did. She was a rock, like at Aretias, like her statues in a thousand temples, and nothing, nothing touched her. But logic is rarely the foremost quality of a comedienne. So she set down the pot, and tangled her fingers with Cyrene's, and let the innkeeper lead the way, to many places.
It was weird, Ephiny reflected as she strode arm in arm with Callisto
back to their hut. A bubble of calm seemed to surround them, literally. It was early, but
a few Amazons were moving around briskly. Whenever their paths threatened to intersect
that of the newly bonded couple, they would veer abruptly, with no apparent awareness of
the course change. Except a member of the council, who had a scroll in hand and meant to
harass Ephiny with it. One moment she was walking to the regent's hut, the next she was
walking in the opposite direction, her expression completely bewildered.
Callisto was hardly noticing, a dazed smile on her face. Every few steps or so the Goddess would begin to float, forcing Ephiny to haul her down before Callisto accidentally carried them both off.
Her finger itched a little where the new ring rested, and Ephiny found all sorts of things running through her mind. Would she get a callous near it? Would it affect how she drew the bow? If it wasn't going to tarnish, did that mean it wouldn't turn her finger black? The bigger changes it represented were still a lot to take in, and Ephiny found herself thinking about it just a little, then going on to other things. A sort of mental acclimatizing.
"Eph? Eph?" Callisto gave the regent's arm a shake. "We're at the front door."
Ephiny blinked in surprise. "So we are." The banners had been returned to their positions above the door, an added bit of rope unobtrusively added to hold them in place. The two Amazons entered the hut, settling quietly in front of the fire, which Callisto sparked into life. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
Ephiny grimaced a little. "Nauseous. There's a tea I used for that when I was pregnant with Xenon on that shelf." Callisto nodded vigourously, and soon handed her partner a steaming mug of it. "Thanks."
"No problem." Callisto smiled. "I've always wanted to do things like this. It's really cool."
"Yeah," Ephiny laughed aloud. "I can hardly believe it, you know that? Hades, I can hardly believe my life lately. Seems like I've met half the pantheon... and I never thought of getting any autographs!"
Callisto snorted. "Nah, the pantheon's pretty big. You've just met a few of the weirder members." They both laughed, then Ephiny sighed a little.
"We've got to get ready for our public ceremony... and find out how long Gabrielle's other ceremony will require us to go into hiding to live it down." she grinned wryly.
For once, Callisto was in an optimistic frame of mind. "How bad could it be?" she asked, a bit carelessly.
"Callisto, at least one of the summer equinox ceremonies includes rolling an egg along the ground in a sort of race."
"That's no big deal, Eph."
"With your nose."
Thraso stood up slowly, feeling her back muscles go to work, albeit
sulkily. Standing up now accomplished, the question was, how to get her boots. They sat to
one side of the door. The young weaponmaster had managed to get dressed while laying
mostly flat, especially impressive since she hadn't woken Eumache and only needed to pull
an armslength of sheet out of her shirt.
Carefully, with measured footfalls, she approached her boots. Looking for all the world like she expected them to jump, squeal, and run away if approached incautiously. Bending at the knees until she felt them creak, Thraso managed to grab the tops of her footwear. Slowly, slowly, she stood up again, wincing as her knees added popping and snapping to their repertoire.
The time Xena had allotted for bedrest wasn't quite up, but Thraso had gotten it into her head that Eumache should get breakfast in bed. Hence the necessity for clothing and boots. Thraso already had a menu all planned out. No greasy stuff, nothing that smelt really strong... that would be nasty news for Eumache's tender stomach. Some of that cinnamon tea Eumache liked though, because that seemed to help, and she just liked it. Maybe some fresh bread... a quick look out the window revealed open flames spouting out the oven vent of the food hut. Maybe not.
Settling on the bed with her feet flat on the floor, Thraso kept one boot in her hand and settled the other beside her. A moment while she braced herself, resting the boot on her belly. Lifting the foot required by the boot, she bent its associated knee until it was within boot fitting reach. Putting the boot on took enough effort to turn Thraso's face brick red. She paused, examining the angle her leg was at.
"I think I'll hide Eumache's copy of the Lesbian Kama Sutra... and make a note to avoid interpretive dance." The next boot finally slipped on and Thraso let her foot drop, laying back and wheezing. "'Kay, need to get up again." This required rolling onto her stomach and carefully pushing up. Feet regained, Thraso paused to gaze at her lover.
Eumache was sound asleep, curled up in the blankets and gripping a pillow in lieu of Thraso. Her hair was tousled, of course, and her ringlets were scattered across her pillow, highlighted by bars of sunlight. An expression of gentle joy was on her face, a gentle flush gracing her cheeks. At some point during Thraso's perambulations she had pushed aside the blanket, leaving her partner with a fine view of her breasts. A goofy grin split the weaponmaster's face. Some people claimed that the first bowl was molded on Aphrodite's breast, which meant it was supposed to be this perfectly round half globe type thing. Thraso sighed happily. Who needed that? Eumache's weren't perfectly round, and were quite perky besides... far more interesting than plain half globes. Thraso licked her lips, and blinked a little as her stomach growled. Unfortunately, further philosophizing on the subject would have to wait until after breakfast, when it was entirely possible she'd get to do some hands on exploration. That added speed to her steps as she made her way to the food hut.
A few barrels caught her attention. "Hey, condiments." Thraso grinned, and got closer so she could read the labels. One label in particular caught her eye. "Mint syrup... use sparingly, very strong," Thraso read aloud. "Don't know what you could put that on."
The weaponmaster shuffled on into the foodhut, nodding to the group coming off night watch and the other group about to go on. Maneuvering carefully around tables and the occasional foodhut staffperson, she finally made it to the cooking counters in the back. A rapid, steady clicking and swooshing was coming from the very back, in time with quicksilver flashes. Squinting revealed the head cook, expertly dicing vegetables and physically tossing food from one dish to the next. Spills were deftly averted with a flick of the wrist. Thraso stood out of harm's way a moment, then cleared her throat.
"Yes?" said the cook, halving a radish in midair and deflecting one half so that if fell down Thraso's shirt. Hopping a little and shaking herself, Thraso replied, "I just came to get a little breakfast for me and my partner... fruit and cheese is fine, no need to cook anything, and I can gather stuff myself."
"What?! No!" the cook shook a knife vigourously at her. "Cooking is my life, it's what I do, it's who I am! How can you not ask for something that doesn't need cooking! What do you really want?" What Thraso really wanted was a plateful of fruit, cheese, and venison. Eggs made her feel ill on principle, and toast had to be one of the most boring foods out there. If greasy dried bread was a food. Thraso wrinkled her nose in disgust.
"What I want is..."
"No, no... what, an omelette? Pancakes? What?" Two hunks of carrot flew past Thraso's ears, and landed in a pot on the fire behind her.
"No, thank you, you're very kind. I don't like eggs and I'm not quite hungry enough for pancakes."
"Do you not understand a word I say? Do you know what I'm called? A cook! How can I be a cook, if you won't give me a reason to cook something?"
Having come to the conclusion that the cook lived to refuse to give you uncooked food, Thraso unbuckled the pouch she had brought along for the purpose and began to collect breakfast, which came from various conveniently labelled bins.
"Hey! You can't do that! I am a Kitchen Goddess! Stop it!" the cook spun around, now armed with a large spoon, and a bucket of oatmeal for the bubbling pot on the fire. Thraso hurriedly made for the door, not pausing to answer. "You should be worshipping at my altar! Do you see any bad teeth, indigestion, heart disease here? No! Why? Because of the Divine Cook, that's why! Why I oughta..."
"Next time, I think I'll just raid the garden." Thraso muttered.
Well folks, this is the end of the line for me. The logical end of the
story here is after Ephiny and Callisto's joining, and that's solely Rachel's baby. I'm
sorry to leave you all so close to it, but I realized that to try to do it myself wouldn't
be respectful of my writing partner. The next project on my plate will continue the
stories that I've been spending the most time on here (Thraso and Eumache, Artemis and
Cyrene). Well, that's all until I think of a title. Thank you, everybody, and please keep
an eye on Rachel's site, http://members.tripod.com/~Barderella2/xena.html. She'll post her
work there for sure.